Monday January 22, 2018 | by Valerie Hughes

EXHIBITION: Laura Donefer's meditation on historical suffering is on view in "Shine the Light"

While glass artist Laura Donefer's works had dealt with violent themes in the past, their severity and scope reached new heights in her 2013 work, Todesmarche Revisited. The 15-foot long glass and cement work is comprised of approximately 900 cast glass feet, commemorating the millions of lives lost in the Holocaust through a reference to the eponymous Nazi Todesmarche, or "Death March." It can now be seen again at Alfstad& Contemporary of Sarasota, Florida, as part of the exhibition, "Shine the Light." The show recontextualizes Donefer's monumental work with photography by Charlotte Schmitz, and a film by Deborah Haber and Dave Marshall, each exploring persecuted voices of the past and present. It was curated by Deborah Haber of DEEP Arts, a non-profit arts organization focused on promoting new work, and runs through February 2nd. On Wednesday, January 24 at 4pm and Friday, January 26 at 6:15pm, Haber and Donefer will be discussing "Shine the Light" as part of Alfstad& Contemporary's Artist Talks Series.

Donefer has been working in glass for more than thirty years, creating pieces notable for their vibrant colors and drastic silhouettes. Her "Amulet Baskets," shown at 2011's SOFA Chicago, are colorfully dramatic works that sharply contrast with the soft tones of Todesmarche Revisited.

Laura Donefer, Todesmarche Revisited, 2013. Cast glass and concrete. W 180 in. courtesy: alfstad& contemporary.

Todesmarche Revisited is a testament to the souls who perished during what Nazis called the Todesmarche, or “Death March,” in which concentration camp prisoners were forced to walk barefoot from one camp to another. These marches lasted for days, leaving bodies strewn along the path in their wake, most having died of exhaustion and starvation. Donefer's work recalls this with a row of glass feet leading towards a pile of them, from which a warm light emanates. The feet were cast from real people, some of them Holocaust survivors.

Donefer began this work after her father researched his ancestry at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., and came across documents that coldly recorded the ways in which his family members were murdered by the Nazis. He recalls the experience painfully, according to an essay on the work by former Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery curator, Christian Bernard Signer, saying: "It was as if a knife pierced my heart."

The glass installation is centered on the floor of the exhibition space, surrounded, on the walls, by Charlotte Schmitz's Take Me to Jermany, a series of Polaroid photographs enlarged to 40” x 60” and printed on canvas. Whereas Donefer’s work plunges viewers into the twentieth-century horrors of the Holocaust, Schmitz’s photographs shed light on today’s refugee crisis, and particularly, on the persecution of Turkish refugees in Greece.

Installation view of Todesmarche Revisited at Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery in 2013.
Armed with a Polaroid camera, Schmitz traveled to the Greek Island Lesvos, on Greece's Turkish border. “Take me to Jermany,” was a phrase that Schmitz frequently heard amongst refugees. Although it was often said as a joke, it expressed an irrepressible truth. After taking a photo of an individual, Schmitz would give them the photograph and encourage them to write something. One young refugee wrote: “I See Humans, not Humanity.”

Finally, the exhibition features a trailer for an upcoming documentary titled FINDING HOME, by Emmy-award winning director Dave Marshall and the exhibition's curator, Deborah Haber. The documentary chronicles the development of the upcoming musical Moses Man: Finding Home, the true story of Haber’s father, who survived the Holocaust, and his role in the contemporary refugee crisis. The film will consist of testimonials from refugees and Holocaust survivors, and is expected to be completed by 2019.

After the horrors of the Holocaust were recognized, the world vowed never to let something like it happen again. However, over 70 years later, genocides and refugee crises are still a part of the global narrative. "Shine the Light" follows the imperative in its title to address this: forcing us to reckon with these atrocities, past and present.


Laura Donefer, Charlotte Schmitz, Deborah Haber, and Dave Marshall
“Shine the Light”
January 10, 2018 - February 2, 2018
Artist Talks: Wednesday January 24th from 4pm-6pm, and Friday, January 26th at 6:15pm
Alfstad& Contemporary
1419 5th Street
Sarasota, Florida
Tel: 941 366 6400

GLASS: The UrbanGlass Quarterly, a glossy art magazine published four times a year by UrbanGlass has provided a critical context to the most important artwork being done in the medium of glass for 35 years.